Landscape lighting brings your garden to life and makes it more functional in the evenings and at night, but it also helps you add depth and interest to your garden and the exterior of your home.
If you don’t currently have any lighting in your garden, the thought of adding some can seem intimidating. But, when you take things one step at a time, lighting up your landscaping is a snap!
Choose Solar or Electric
First, decide if you want to use a solar or electric lighting system. The main advantage to using a solar lighting system is that you won’t have to deal with wiring and you can even save money in the long run when your electrical bills aren’t affected. You will also likely be able to install solar lights yourself, as they don’t require electrical knowledge.
Electrical systems can be more dependable and will work well even if you don’t have much sunlight during the day. They are great for areas that are shady, but they will require professional installation.
Know your Options
Most landscape lights fall into one of six categories. The kinds of lights you use will depend on what your landscaping looks like.
Downlights are exactly what they sound like, lights that shine down into your yard. They are typically installed high up on fence posts or even in trees to make an area safer.
Floodlights get their name because they flood an entire area in bright light. These are best used in driveways, along fences or near sheds. Their main purpose is functionality.
Wash lights are meant to add a narrow beam of light to fill in dark gaps throughout your landscaping or around your home.
Use garden lights in flowerbeds or border gardens to light up areas here and there. These lights are meant to light up a few plants and areas, not the entire garden.
Bullet lights are mainly used to light up the exterior of your home. They are smaller and should be installed at an angle to light up the perimeter of your house.
Well lights are installed in the ground so their surface is at ground level and are good for lighting up fences and walls and to add interest and depth around trees and large plants.
There aren’t any specific rules on how to use these lights, but when you know what they are generally used for you have a good place to start with your own garden.
Make a Plan
Before you start installing lights, make a plan. As you learn what your options are and what you will need, make an aerial drawing of your yard and use a pencil to sketch in where you want to install lights.
Some manufacturers label lights with information like brightness and how much space they can illuminate. Use this information to draw arrows out from the lights to represent how far they will reach.
This makes it easier to determine your needs and also lets you see the big picture. With an aerial sketch, it is easier to get an idea of what kind of effect you are creating than it is while you are installing the lights in your yard.
Think Function and Safety First
Start by finding ways to make your garden more functional and safe. Things like pathway lights, floodlights and downlights are good choices for this. They bring in a lot of light so that things like your driveway, dark areas in your garden, and your garage door, are safer.
Also think about the way you use your garden. If you entertain in the evening, you will need to use some festoon lights, downlights and garden lights near your deck, barbecue or seating areas.
Use bullet lights and wash lights around your home to light up areas around windows and doors so people can easily see your home and to keep it safe. When you light up the exterior of your home, you are enhancing your entire landscaping.
Highlight Special Features
Now, start highlighting special features so your garden looks as great during the night as it does during the day. Things like ponds, large trees, flowerbeds, fountains and other special features can be illuminated with well lights and garden lights.
Highlighting your deck, porch or patio is also a matter of design and safety. Making these spaces stand out will add to the beauty of your garden while making them easier and safer to use.
The lights you use will also help you create depth, which adds interest to your yard and makes it look better in general. To create depth, avoid putting all of your lights in a line across your landscaping.
In other words, put some closer to your home, some near the front of your yard and some in between. This makes layers of lighting that make your yard look bigger and better at dusk and after dark.
This kind of lighting also makes your garden more comfortable and enticing for outdoor entertaining and just relaxing on the front porch in the evening.
Use Angles to your Advantage
Just as you shouldn’t put all of your lighting in one layer, you should also avoid shining all the lights in the same direction. Bullet lights, garden lights, wash lights and other kinds of lights allow you to tilt the bulb so you can send the beam of light in any direction you want.
Play with some different angles to find positions that make your garden easier to use, more enticing and more interesting. Don’t be afraid to let some lights shine toward your house and some away from it.
Remember, you aren’t trying to create a spotlight that illuminates one space. You are trying to use small spurts of light to create an overall effect and feeling and the best way to do this is to shine lights at different angles.
Landscape lighting can take any garden from mundane to interesting and can make your yard, deck and porch more functional, giving you extra living space you can use all spring and summer and even into the fall.
Use these tips to get started and remember that in most cases, you will need to experiment with the types of lighting you use, placement and angles until you find the perfect combination for your home.
Back to articles